Teaching Gratefulness - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 29 Old 10-16-2010, 09:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My DS(5) is just ungrateful. There's no other way to put it. He's always been a complainer (seriously), but in the last month or so, it's gotten so.much.worse. Today we went to a science museum (an hour's drive) where he had a blast for 3 hours. Then we walked around downtown, stopping wherever the kids wanted to look at things. We had dinner. We found a local playground. My mom sent them a gift card this week, so we stopped and let them get something with it. Five minutes into the ride home, and DS is asking if he can watch a show when he gets home. DH said no and that really we wouldn't be doing a book (we read to them all the time, so this is not a hardship) or board games or anything when we got home because it's late. DS pouted, but that was it. Then we got home, and he asked me if he could play a game. No, Dad already explained that we're not doing that. He cried & told me I'd hurt his feelings, he never gets to do anything, etc., etc.

Now it's not from being too tired. He does this all the time about anything & everything. He complains because his allowance isn't enough, because we're having something with beans for dinner, because I tied DD's shoes before I helped him *find* his shoes. I would guess he complains about 25-30 things a day.

How do I teach gratefulness? We do significant volunteer work. Both DH & I work on projects, and the kids help or tag along. Between all of us, I'd say we volunteer 10-15 hours *a week*. We talk - lots - about privilege and necessities, so I don't think it's that he doesn't get it. I'm just at a loss for how to go about helping him/teaching him to be more thankful and less critical of everyone & everything.

It's us: DH , DS ; DD ; and me . Also there's the . And the 3 . I . Oh, and .
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#2 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 12:06 AM
 
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oh dear. that is so so so so common and normal. 'i dont get to do anything'. i call that tired child talk that is to be ignored.

however the other times. totally normal. i mean he is realising that the world is not revolving around him as he was brought up to believe. 5 is also the age of drama. so bombastic descriptives like ever again or anything or...

in fact 5 is the age they become even more 'selfish'. dont worry. their 'gratefullness' gene has not activated yet. its around 7 and 8 consciousness develops. and it is THEN that you will see the 'gratefullness' come creeping in.

you and your dh are already setting an excellent example by actually volunteering. nothing can teach him better than that.

however look around you. all you have described are situations at home. what about outside? is your son different with others?

dont look upon his complaining as lack of gratitude. look upon it as a reaction. a response to how hard they are finding life. 5 is a typical age for that.

does gratitude has to be in the form of thank yous or i appreciate. gratitude might be in his hug, in his i love you mommy.

the hard part of being 5 is realizing that the party comes to an end. it just go on and on and on. he has to brush his teeth and go to bed instead of read or watch more tv or anything. of course he doesnt see that he is asleep the minute his head hits the pillow... but its almost like for the sake of arguing he has to put up a 'battle'.

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#3 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 12:11 AM
 
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To me, it sounds like you're talking not only about gratefulness, but, also about basic thought patterns - optimism versus pessimism and general outlook. I've struggled with this issue with my dd. She has a tendency to want to look at life with the glass always "half empty".
I'm still working on it, and will be checking back to see if others have advice, but, one excersise I do with her is to ask "can you think of 3 good things that happened to you today?". I also ask what can you fill your "love cup" with - she thinks of events, things, etc. that are good in her life.
I also do my best to model a positive, grateful outlook because it's also something I struggle with. Gee... wonder where she gets it...
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#4 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 10:01 AM
 
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I agree that a lot of it is the age. My 7yo is so loving and understanding. He thanks me for making dinner or taking him somewhere fun or whatever and is is always genuine and unprompted. He was NOT like that at 5. and my 5yo is not like that, at all. In fact he is very much like you describe your son. Nothing is fair, everyone gets more than he does, he should have gotten money for his baby sister's birthday too, etc etc. I have found 5 to be a very difficult age in general, but this is a big part of it. Don't get me wrong, he's a lovely child and he's very kind to everyone around him most of the time, but he certainly has his moments and they are so very frustrating.
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#5 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 10:13 AM
 
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I could have written your post word for word!! Do you know my son?!

Guess it is "normal" five-year old behavior. Maybe age seven is better?

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#6 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Perhaps it is normal, but it just seems so draining. DD(3) uses the hyperbolic speech all the time. She says "I'm never playing with you again for the rest of my life," that DS told her last week that she always says it but never means it. I don't remember him doing that at 3 so much.

Meemee, he's this way at home & away, though he usually only says these things to me & dh (luckily). I had to call my mom about the aforementioned gift card she sent because it didn't have a dollar amount. When I got off the phone, I said, "it's $10," and he said, "what? Only $10? Why couldn't she send more?" Grr.

K1329, yes, I think you're right that it's the general pessimism on top of the ungratefulness. He's cynical & negative in many ways, and I have no idea where he gets it. :0 We have tried the "say 3 things you're happy about," but it never went very well. Both my kids & DH said that was goofy, so it ended. Last week I was so frustrated with him that I was tempted to bag up all of his toys and tell him he could get some back as he was kind to others. He has a serious mean streak!

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#7 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 10:47 AM
 
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My DSD is 8, and she has always been like this - pessimistic and generally ungrateful. I've never met a child before that actually gets mad opening gifts on Christmas morning or at birthday parties! She seldom says "thank you" for things like gifts or experiences, despite our making a point to teach her that it is important to do this. Weirdly enough, she does say it for little things like getting her a glass of water or passing the salt.

I wish I could say it gets better, but in my experience, it hasn't yet. It just seems to be a part of her personality. Her sister is the complete opposite, which is what leads me to the personality theory - I know that we have tried to teach DSD manners, and her sister obviously learned them from DSD's mom (so she must be working on it, too). Hopefully it will get better, but at this point, I don't have much hope.

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#8 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 11:12 AM
 
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Raising Your Spirited Child has a great section on Mood as a temperamental trait. I highly suggest reading it to gain better understanding of this normal (albeit sometimes highly frustrating) trait. Some people are wired this way, and when it's handled well, they go on to become highly analytical individuals -- this can be a very good thing. They aren't trying to be obnoxious -- their brains are looking for things that can be fixed or optimized. My dh, 10 year old and almost 5 year old are all this way. My husband has a PhD in Computer and Cognitive Science, and is currently a Systems Architect. He gets paid to be seriously analytical and to find the problems, not concentrate on the positive aspects of everything.

We all also go through developmental periods when this is normal. Also, in the case of the OP, sense of time is still developing in 5 year olds -- even if a child had a treat or two or ten earlier in the day, it can seem like much much longer by the time bedtime comes around. I do what a past poster suggested, in that at the end of the day, as everyone is getting ready to sleep, we all list 1-3 things that went well or stood out in a good way, and 1-2 things that we were less happy about. Gratefulness can't be taught, per say, anymore than you can "teach" someone to love. I think it's something that you find over time, on your own, but with the guidance of grateful people pointing out the things for which they're grateful in a natural non forced, non coercive way. "I love it when it rains, and I have a hot cup of tea" or "I'm so glad that Tina was home, and we were able to have a good, long talk" or "I'm so thankful that Daddy was able to make dinner tonight because I had such a headache". Saying thanks before meals in a sincere way is a great way to recognize the abundance in your life, regardless of religious affiliation. Even a simple, "Wow, that was definitely a great way to spend a day doing things we wanted -- how fortunate we were to be able to enjoy that!" (or whatever wording rings true to how you feel about it)

Give it time and be patient. Remember that you are carrying around a lot of information that your son doesn't have at his disposal, and that you probably wouldn't really want him to have at his age anyway. He doesn't need that information to start on a journey towards thankfulness, but he does need patience and the tools to get started.

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#9 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 11:21 AM
 
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Oh, and I do think there's a difference between feeling grateful (an internal state) and being polite (a behavior/action sometimes motivated by feeling grateful, but just as often ingrained and without thought). My serious husband and children are both (in the case of my children, they are on the path to both, but do well for their respective ages), but one does not necessarily follow the other (i.e. you can be grateful without being polite and vice versa).

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#10 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 11:29 AM
 
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My 4 year old has recently entered this phase. *sigh*

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#11 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 11:39 AM
 
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To be honest, what is getting me through these period (and no, it doesn't always stop after age 5--that depends on personality, and I notice a lot of kids, including my own, go through cycles of this) is a phrase that a friend of mine told me.

"It's not personal, it's developmental."

Your 5 and 3 year olds are not being that way to piss you off. Your 5 and 3 year olds are not being that way in order to embarass you. Longwinded lectures about how you should be grateful are a) not going to register, b) might seem funny to them, which is only going to make you more angry, and c) won't change their behavior.

You are modeling for them, and you are exposing them to the world outside their bubble. That does have impact, especially over the long term. But they're simply not ready to give up the self-centeredness just yet because developmentally they're not capable of being selfless all the time (I don't think adults are/should be either).

You can, however, minimize situations that you know are going to be particularly tough or where you know that your ego is going to get in the way. (That is not a swipe, I think people who say that their ego NEVER factors into their parenting ever probably are lying, esp. to themselves.)

Especting grateful, non-fussy behavior when a kid is out late and has just been through unusually stimulating evironment (I'm going to assume that you do not take your kids to 3 hours of science museum fun every day) and then a retail store which is meant to be stimulating--hmmm, probably NOT the smartest plan. You're overstimulated, he's overstimulated. You're probably tired--and so is he. Even Gandhi did not run around at the kids' museum and then go shopping at a western retail store during the "pre-Christmas" season and then make all his wonderful teachings/writings, KWIM? (He also wasn't 5.)

You say that he does this "all the time", and that you guys spend up to 15 hours a week volunteering. You enjoy that level of dynamic activity. But. Is that where he is in his life right now? Sometimes people who are determined to "do good" can become a little myopic when it comes to how it impacts their families. Just something to think about. You don't have to cut back forever--but make sure you are not getting messaged that maybe he needs some non go-go-go time, especially if he's going to have to deal with annoyed parents for a schedule that he didn't ask for in the first place.

Yes, there are some things that you can do to help him change his behavior (I would tread really carefully if you think you want to change his *personality*)--but to be honest, you proably need to look at YOUR attitude and behavior too. Esp. if you are annoyed/frustrated it becomes really easy for you to start circling down the negativity spiral as well, and blaming him for it. There's probably some tweaks that could happen on either side--and since the only person you can truly control is yourself, I think that's the best place to start.
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#12 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 01:09 PM
 
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Originally Posted by VisionaryMom View Post
he said, "what? Only $10? Why couldn't she send more?" Grr.
THIS is the time you step in. you explain the why. because gradma does not have the money. and you explain why. not working. living on savings, ss = limited income.

or that gma lives in her times. for her perhaps $10 is a lot because when she spent $10 on her kids they went a LOOOONG way.

the key with 'gratefullness' is the ability to see the world through others eyes. and have compassion for them.

VM yes i can believe it must be extremely exhausting!!!! at tigerchild said it is ALSO the age. 3 and 5 combination is a HARD combination.

make sure, make VERY sure that you are getting a break, that YOU are getting your NEEDS met. if you respect your children you will DEMAND your time. you MUST teach them to see you as a person too - not just their mom who caters to every need.

i made sure that from when dd was little i got my break too. i always told her when i needed some time on my own. that i need a break. of course it took her a while to get it. she wouldnt do it at first. but soon enough she got it. like now when she wants to hang on my arm i tell her i need some space please and no touching.

not catering to her every whim and need has helped her be aware of others as people and thus have some compassion for them.

i have always, always, always shown her the world thru others eyes.... even when at 5 seh was the 'big' girl all the little kids were following and dd was losing it 'why is she COPYING me. tell her to stoooop. i dont want her to do that.'

however i will say VM - that the key that has had its biggest impact on dd has not been me or my words. its been the voluntary work she's been doing with me. that has moved her and taught her soooooooo much more than i could ever do on my own.

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#13 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 01:57 PM
 
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My little guy is a bit older than yours, but we found: What to Do When You Grumble Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Negativity to be helpful. Not a miracle cure or anything, but really quite good.

Good luck!
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#14 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 04:00 PM
 
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kids live in the moment.

the fact that he spent hours at the kids museum, bought something, and played out at the playground doesn't change how he feels about now not getting to watch/play/read because it's late. And it's not necessarily going to get you the appreciation/gratefulness you might be looking for.

one thought - is he getting choices here? do you make it clear if you stop at the playground that there won't be time for anything when you get home?

my DD (she's now 7) NEEDS that unwind time at home before bed. We simply can't stay out until there's no time for a quiet activity at home, not unless we want a very bad experience.

The gift card - I would draw a firm line with behaviour like this. Is he clear on how he is expected to act with respect to gifts? If so, I probably would have put the gift card away for x amount of time, and explained that after that time he could have another chance to act appropriately. If he isn't clear on it, then find a simple way to explain, and remind him of it at every gift receiving occasion.
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#15 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 04:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by VisionaryMom View Post
When I got off the phone, I said, "it's $10," and he said, "what? Only $10? Why couldn't she send more?" Grr.
I think I would just respond with something along the lines of "Grandma sent you $10 because she thought you would enjoy picking something out yourself. If she hadn't sent it to you, you wouldn't be able to pick out anything right now. You should be so happy that she loves you and did something special for you. Let's call her now and tell her what you picked out, and thank her again for the gift."

Last night DH and I bought some silly bands for our almost 3 year old. He put them all on, one by one, looking at each shape and commenting on their name and color. When he went to put on the last one, it broke! All of the sudden his joy was gone. All he could focus on was that one of the yellow ones broke. He pouted. He whined. He begged for a new yellow one. Finally I told him, "Earlier today you didn't have any new silly bands, and now you have a lot! You should be so happy that you have all those new silly bands, even if the yellow one is broken. You still have another yellow one!" When I told him that, it was like a light bulb came on. He was so disappointed about the broken silly band that he didn't realize he still had about 15 other new silly bands. He smiled again, thanked me for the silly bands, and happily started counting each color. "I have 2 red ones, 2 blue ones, 2 black ones, only 1 yellow one, 2 green ones..."

All was well with the world again.

I'm quite sure this will play out about a million more times in his lifetime, but hopefully as he gets older he'll begin to be able to see the bright side on his own without so much prompting.

Kat, wife to and mommy to (Dec 07).
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#16 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 05:58 PM
 
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It must be age five. I have one, too. I started noticing this a few months ago, and I've been really searching how to do this.

I found a book a few weeks ago titled "Raising Grateful Kids" -- it's a Christian book, published by Hearts At Home, so I don't know if it's up your alley in that respect. I'm on chapter two right now. I can tell you that chapter one was good --- the point of the first chapter was on parents modeling gratefulness: Wow, I am so thankful for this beautiful, sunshiney day!! I thought that was a good start.

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#17 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 07:20 PM
 
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Another good book is: Raising an Optimistic Child

If this is part of an overall pessimistic tendency, you won't be able to completely change them. But you can give them good tools to buffer against their own negativity.

At 5, however, I agree that it's developmental. Their world is very black and white at that age - shades of grey com as they develop their ability to think more.

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#18 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 09:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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First, thanks for the book suggestions. I will look up the ones I haven't read. We have Raising the Spirited Child from DS's earlier, tantrum-filled days. I'll pull it out and re-read any applicable sections.

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Originally Posted by pinksprklybarefoot View Post
wish I could say it gets better, but in my experience, it hasn't yet.
Ahh! This is my fear, I suppose, just living with someone who's always ungrateful and unhappy.

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Some people are wired this way, and when it's handled well, they go on to become highly analytical individuals -- this can be a very good thing. They aren't trying to be obnoxious -- their brains are looking for things that can be fixed or optimized. My dh, 10 year old and almost 5 year old are all this way. My husband has a PhD in Computer and Cognitive Science, and is currently a Systems Architect. He gets paid to be seriously analytical and to find the problems, not concentrate on the positive aspects of everything.
I don't want a child who is positive all the time. I'm not. My husband is not. Incidentally he also is a systems architect. My work is heavily research-based. It's not that I don't understand analytical thinking; it's that DS is just unhappy and makes everyone else that way. We joke often that our family motto is "every problem has a solution. Your job is to find it." This trait of DS isn't about being a problem-solver or seeing potential roadblocks. It's about being so negative that nothing is fun or enjoyable after a while.

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Oh, and I do think there's a difference between feeling grateful (an internal state) and being polite (a behavior/action sometimes motivated by feeling grateful, but just as often ingrained and without thought).
This is true. I'd like him to feel grateful, but I know I can't force it. I don't even necessarily want polite (as in forced thank-yous), but I *do* want him *not* to express his disdain at everything.

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Your 5 and 3 year olds are not being that way to piss you off. Your 5 and 3 year olds are not being that way in order to embarass you. Longwinded lectures about how you should be grateful are a) not going to register, b) might seem funny to them, which is only going to make you more angry, and c) won't change their behavior.
My 3YO is not trying to upset anyone, and really she doesn't. I'm not so sure about my 5YO. I'm not going to pretend that he doesn't have the capacity to push buttons if he's so inclined. In general, though, I don't think he's trying to make me angry.

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You can, however, minimize situations that you know are going to be particularly tough or where you know that your ego is going to get in the way. (That is not a swipe, I think people who say that their ego NEVER factors into their parenting ever probably are lying, esp. to themselves.)

Especting grateful, non-fussy behavior when a kid is out late and has just been through unusually stimulating evironment (I'm going to assume that you do not take your kids to 3 hours of science museum fun every day) and then a retail store which is meant to be stimulating--hmmm, probably NOT the smartest plan. You're overstimulated, he's overstimulated. You're probably tired--and so is he. Even Gandhi did not run around at the kids' museum and then go shopping at a western retail store during the "pre-Christmas" season and then make all his wonderful teachings/writings, KWIM? (He also wasn't 5.)
I'm not sure I exactly understand the ego comment. If I made my husband lobster tail as a special meal, and he complained (because he *likes* lobster, after all, and it's a treat), I would feel the same way. I don't need or want fawning over having a fun day; I just don't want complaining. He complained every step along the way, so it's really not about the number of things we did. He griped about where we parked when we got to the museum, for Cripe's sake! If he drove, he would've picked a better spot - closer to the ramp leading into the museum. And...he wouldn't have packed the same thing we did for lunch or stopped on the first floor of the museum first or used the bathroom at the entrance. It sounds comical when I'm not in the moment, but it's tiring at that point. Even staying home doesn't help because he complains here, too.

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Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post
You say that he does this "all the time", and that you guys spend up to 15 hours a week volunteering. You enjoy that level of dynamic activity. But. Is that where he is in his life right now? Sometimes people who are determined to "do good" can become a little myopic when it comes to how it impacts their families. Just something to think about. You don't have to cut back forever--but make sure you are not getting messaged that maybe he needs some non go-go-go time, especially if he's going to have to deal with annoyed parents for a schedule that he didn't ask for in the first place.
My volunteer work isn't negotiable. I freelance so that I can be at home with the kids. I'm still doing that because he needs accommodations that our loca school district can't provide, so civic work is what I do to have interactions with other people. And in reality he's not there with me all the time, so it's not like I'm dragging them to places kicking & screaming. I do a lot of work while they're outside playing or asleep.

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Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post
Yes, there are some things that you can do to help him change his behavior (I would tread really carefully if you think you want to change his *personality*)--but to be honest, you proably need to look at YOUR attitude and behavior too. Esp. if you are annoyed/frustrated it becomes really easy for you to start circling down the negativity spiral as well, and blaming him for it. There's probably some tweaks that could happen on either side--and since the only person you can truly control is yourself, I think that's the best place to start.
I suppose I don't get how this became about me. Are there things we could do differently as a family? Sure. I don't think we're the major contributors to DS' negativity, though.

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Originally Posted by meemee View Post
make sure, make VERY sure that you are getting a break, that YOU are getting your NEEDS met. if you respect your children you will DEMAND your time. you MUST teach them to see you as a person too - not just their mom who caters to every need.
What? Moms get needs? Seriously, I know, and I probably should do more for me. It's just tough to figure out the how and where.

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Originally Posted by dahlialia View Post
And it's not necessarily going to get you the appreciation/gratefulness you might be looking for.
I'm not looking for appreciativeness. I don't care if he says "thanks" to me for basic parenting. I don't expect "thank you for taking us to the museum. It was awesome!" I just don't expect "I never get to do anything. Why couldn't we have gone to the zoo instead?" etc., etc.

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Originally Posted by dahlialia View Post
one thought - is he getting choices here? do you make it clear if you stop at the playground that there won't be time for anything when you get home?
In that particular incident, no he didn't. If we'd gone home after the restaurant, DD would have gone to sleep. Then she would've woken up later and been up until midnight or later. I did ask about going to the store, though. So, in that instance, he didn't have a choice because DH & I can factor in *everyone's* needs and not just his wants. (I don't expect him to be able to take everyone else into account; this is just to explain why he doesn't always get the decide what the family does.) Bedtime is a hassle with him regardless of what we do; he always wants one more thing.

DS is a wonderful person. He's a natural leader, and I watch in awe as he takes charge of groups of children and directs them to do whatever he wants. The flip side of that, though, is that he will push to see what he can get to do. He's definitely a "give him an inch" kind of person, and I'm becoming keenly aware that maybe that means we have to work with him on finding happiness & joy.

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Originally Posted by kittykat2481 View Post
I think I would just respond with something along the lines of "Grandma sent you $10 because she thought you would enjoy picking something out yourself. If she hadn't sent it to you, you wouldn't be able to pick out anything right now. You should be so happy that she loves you and did something special for you. Let's call her now and tell her what you picked out, and thank her again for the gift."
This was the way DH handled it. He said, "it's $10 you didn't have before. Now you can get something that wouldn't be able to get without that gift card." Then in the end, he only spent $5 anyway!

It's us: DH , DS ; DD ; and me . Also there's the . And the 3 . I . Oh, and .
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#19 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 09:56 PM
 
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I'm inclined to believe this is more about personality than age. My oldest son has ALWAYS been exactly like you're describing your son, and still is at the age of 9. My daughter will be 5 in two weeks, and she's grateful for anything you do for her & seems generally much more satisfied/content than DS1. DS2 is somewhere in the middle of the two, I think. I haven't found a "cure" for DS1's attitude & general outlook on life, and believe me, I've tried. I've basically just accepted at this point that that's HIM, it's who he is, and I have to focus on all the wonderful things about him & try to forgive or at least live with the bad.
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#20 of 29 Old 10-17-2010, 10:41 PM
 
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VM, the different between your 5 year old and your husband is that he has had probably at least 20 more years of practice and civilization and learning the hard way when to keep his mouth shut. I'm going to guess too, though, that he still screws up from time to time.

I think that while you can always correct the behavior when it happens, expecting it to be internal at *five years old* and getting annoyed when it is not is way too tall of an order.

You never are snarky in your head? You never complain about anything internally? You never feel like flipping someone off in the parking lot? Not even for a second, before you are able to let it go and just not say anything? You're never cranky? You never have to engage the verbal editor mode?

Keep in mind that a 5 year old does not have all the strategies of polite behavior that adults have. I really hope that you honestly don't expect your 5 year old to adhere to the same social knowhow standards as your husband.

It's "all about you" because to some degree it's your expectations that are fueling a percentage of your feelings. And you don't seem willing to acknowledge that you may have set your DS up to fail in the game-after-gift-card-and-shopping-and-museum scenario that you put forth as an example of why your child is so ungrateful. IN addition, this is one area where you really don't have control. If you are expecting too much, then you may very well succeed in teaching to shut up; but that doesn't necessarily make him a grateful person, just a less offensive one. I believe both are important, but they're somewhat separate issues.

True gratefulness requires a certain amout of experience and capacity for empathy that most little kids don't have fully developed yet. I don't think that is something that parents can force or control, though they can certainly provide experiences and support that growing empathy.

Politeness, though, now that is something you can work on. If your DS had kept it to himself and was not one to voice his thoughts to you without reservation, you probably would not be aware there's a "problem." I think it's fair to say, "It would probably hurt Auntie's feelings to say that, when you receive a gift please don't ask for more or complain about it--that is wrong." I think that's more useful than "You should be grateful" esp. if he doesn't even know what that means. I think it is fair to say, "When someone complains about a trip I've planned, I really don't feel like going anymore. Let's go home." I've had to turn around in the car several times when my kids were in that stage. I didn't expect them to be "grateful" per se, but I did expect them to treat me with kindness and respect when I was taking them on an outing. They tested that, but got the message pretty quickly.

I have found as a parent who sometimes is overly emotionally invested in my kids' personalities/behavior as a reflection on my parenting that it's often helpful for me to step back and fully evaluate myself as well if I'm having a great deal of frustration or anger over a consistant behavior one of my kids is exhibiting. I too am heavily invested in volunteerism. However, I personally also have had to learn (the hard way) that it's pretty easy for me to ignore the balancing that goes on if I'm making demands on my young children that they're not prepared for. For awhile, I was dragging my children (ages 5, 5, and 6 at the time) away from home for several 4+ hour time blocks every week in order to fulfill church and social justice activities that I wanted to participate in--and though I was tired in a good-yay-I'm-doing-something-that-is-important-to-me way--it also frankly gave me less emotional energy to deal with the button pushing and blunt honesty that only 5 and 6 year olds can dole out. I couldn't believe how I could have ended up with such selfish, ungrateful, bratty kids. But then, ooops, I realized that I was kind of setting them up to fail in a way so that I could get my feel good on, and do work that I thought nobody else would get done if I didn't do it. When I made some adjustments, we all made some great improvements.

Now, I'm not saying that is your case, but...it is something to look at that most people, especially dynamic outreach-oriented people, don't think to.
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#21 of 29 Old 10-18-2010, 01:20 AM
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I really think it's the age. My almost 5 year old does frequently thank me for doing things, but lately she also gets emotional easily and over things that haven't bothered her before. We've been hearing whining, crying, complaining, running to her room and then crying in there until someone comes and the "I hate this what-ever-it-is" about so many things she usually likes. Just like the tantrums that we endured when she was 2.5, I figure all this emotional fragility and moodiness is from some developmental cause. We react to all this calmly and supportively and look forward to it going away, just like the tantrums did and the few weeks of bossiness last fall. Anytime there are hormonal and cognitive changes you can expect behavioral side effects for awhile.

I feel the best way to teach any manners or morals is by modeling. A kid that hears "thank you" and "I appreciate it" directed at herself and others will say those things eventually. Also I and DD have to have a relaxing activity before we can sleep. We always spend at least 20 minutes on bedtime activities regardless of how late we get home or she can't sleep.
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I'm inclined to believe this is more about personality than age.
I agree. Some things are not about the parents. Dd has never gone through this "stage" (she's almost 9) and she never went through the tantrum stage when she was younger, either. Although we (as parents) show gratitude and don't throw fits, I think it's more about her and less about our modeling (although I'm sure it helps to a certain degree). She's just been naturally inclined to be a sweet, respectful, thankful person... in general. I think some kids are just disagreeable and pessimistic. I have a nephew that was like that, and at 21, he's still that way. OP - it may be a situation where you can teach all you want, but you can't change a basic personality quirk.
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#23 of 29 Old 10-18-2010, 12:33 PM
 
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I had a roommate who was always saying negative stuff about herself or what was happening and we made a rule that if you said something negative you had to say 3 positive things right away (if it was about yourself the positive things had to be about yourself). I remember that helped stop the negative talk, and even when it didn't, it ended on a more positive note. So something like that might help.

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#24 of 29 Old 10-18-2010, 12:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I had a roommate who was always saying negative stuff about herself or what was happening and we made a rule that if you said something negative you had to say 3 positive things right away (if it was about yourself the positive things had to be about yourself). I remember that helped stop the negative talk, and even when it didn't, it ended on a more positive note. So something like that might help.

Tjej
We tried this about a year ago, but it may be worth a try again. This morning, I had him make a list of 3 things he wanted to do today. My thought is that we can go over them at bedtime and say, "see, you got to do 3 fun things you wanted to do!"

I think I need to clarify that 1) the museum day was just an example and 2) my concern isn't that he appears or is grateful to me all the time. It's really not about me in that sense. Thinking about why he's negative has made me do some self-exploration, but my concern is about how to help him here, not to change so that he never has a reason to be upset.

So, there are 2 issues. The first is that I don't want him (or DD, for that matter) to feel entitled, and maybe that's a better word than grateful. They're white (blond hair, blue eyes, & all) and upper middle-class. They live in a stable house with 2 parents, meals cooked from scratch, have a dog. They are the American Dream come to life. (And no, I don't say that to them. This is my adult interpretation.) DS was sick when he was younger, and we moved mountains to get the right specialists and spend untold money on his medical care. My children are INCREDIBLY FORTUNATE, and I don't want that to turn into a feeling that they deserve everything. DH & I aren't materialistic, and we try very hard to be conscious consumers. At the same time, one of our children wants more and better of everything, and it does concern me.

A few years ago, someone we know was turning 16. Her parents bought her a car, and she complained because it was 3 years old and not the color she would have picked. It was a gift! Her parents stretched to buy that car! That's what I want to work on with DS. I don't think it's entirely personality, and I'm looking for concrete ways to help/teach him.

The second issue is that I imagine it's miserable. If we read 2 books to DS, he wants 3. If we read 3, he wants 4. The problem is that he spends so much time thinking about getting us to read one.more book that he can't enjoy reading the first ones. I want him to learn to slow down and enjoy what he has in front of him because otherwise, I don't see him enjoying things as much as he could. I struggle with being present in the moment, too, so it's not an assault on DS' personality. It's just something I see as a parent that I believe I can help him work to make his quality of life better.

It's us: DH , DS ; DD ; and me . Also there's the . And the 3 . I . Oh, and .
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#25 of 29 Old 10-18-2010, 02:17 PM
 
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You sound like a very good, conscious mom. I think that this will eventually turn out well. Your family is lucky to have you! This is a hard issue for many of us.

Mama to A 8/05 and S 11/06
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A few years ago, someone we know was turning 16. Her parents bought her a car, and she complained because it was 3 years old and not the color she would have picked. It was a gift! Her parents stretched to buy that car! That's what I want to work on with DS. I don't think it's entirely personality, and I'm looking for concrete ways to help/teach him.I think simply teaching him to say "thank you" for any gift and not discussing it further when the giver is around would work for that issue.

The second issue is that I imagine it's miserable. If we read 2 books to DS, he wants 3. If we read 3, he wants 4. The problem is that he spends so much time thinking about getting us to read one.more book that he can't enjoy reading the first ones. I want him to learn to slow down and enjoy what he has in front of him because otherwise, I don't see him enjoying things as much as he could. I struggle with being present in the moment, too, so it's not an assault on DS' personality. It's just something I see as a parent that I believe I can help him work to make his quality of life better.I find that if this starts happening with my kids it is because they think they can whine and get more. So perhaps being firm about what you choose (if it is 2 books then it is only 2 and there is no negotiation after you've begun reading) and setting those limits would help. Don't discuss it with him and tell him that if he asks again it is rude/you are done reading.
It sounds a little mean, but really it is just you showing boundaries and limits.

My DD will whine to my DH about stuff and she won't stop because he doesn't stop her. He doesn't like it but he will keep answering her whining with reasoning. Whining/fussing/complaining isn't reasonable and doesn't deserve a reasonable response.

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#27 of 29 Old 10-19-2010, 02:23 PM
 
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I think modeling gratefulness is very important. Making sure you audibly appreciate what a great day you had at the museum, what a beautiful day it is, what a yummy meal you're eating. I do think some of it can be age-related, too. And I do agree that some of it is personality related. I'm sorry the kids and your DH weren't on board with the three good things exercise. My kids love that and my at times curmudgeonly DH will even play along. My dd2 who has more pessimistic tendencies especially loves it when we play "best thing/worst thing/craziest thing/silliest thing", etc, around the dinner table. It also gives us a chance to check in about their days at school.

I've also found that my dd1 responds really well to messages that don't come from me (or DH)! I showed her the story of stuff and it really resonated with her (she's 9.5). I don't know if a 5 yr old would like it very much, but the folks who produced it have some shorts on PBS's website now that he might like. Check out http://pbskids.org/loopscoops/happiness.html .

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I sometimes tell my kids that if they feel the need to complain, please do it in their heads, because I am not interested in hearing it!

This is of course after a talk where I listen to the complaint, empathize, see if we can find a solution/compromise. If they continue to complain I let them know I really am not interested in hearing so much negativity, it's not good for me, so please complain silently or take it to a different room than the one I'm in.

-Melanie
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#29 of 29 Old 10-20-2010, 12:11 PM
 
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So, there are 2 issues. The first is that I don't want him (or DD, for that matter) to feel entitled, and maybe that's a better word than grateful. They're white (blond hair, blue eyes, & all) and upper middle-class. They live in a stable house with 2 parents, meals cooked from scratch, have a dog. They are the American Dream come to life. (And no, I don't say that to them. This is my adult interpretation.) DS was sick when he was younger, and we moved mountains to get the right specialists and spend untold money on his medical care. My children are INCREDIBLY FORTUNATE, and I don't want that to turn into a feeling that they deserve everything. DH & I aren't materialistic, and we try very hard to be conscious consumers. At the same time, one of our children wants more and better of everything, and it does concern me.

A few years ago, someone we know was turning 16. Her parents bought her a car, and she complained because it was 3 years old and not the color she would have picked. It was a gift! Her parents stretched to buy that car! That's what I want to work on with DS. I don't think it's entirely personality, and I'm looking for concrete ways to help/teach him.

The second issue is that I imagine it's miserable. If we read 2 books to DS, he wants 3. If we read 3, he wants 4. The problem is that he spends so much time thinking about getting us to read one.more book that he can't enjoy reading the first ones. I want him to learn to slow down and enjoy what he has in front of him because otherwise, I don't see him enjoying things as much as he could. I struggle with being present in the moment, too, so it's not an assault on DS' personality. It's just something I see as a parent that I believe I can help him work to make his quality of life better.
Wow there's a lot here. I just want to say up front that I agree with your goals and I think it is something to address.

However I also think at 5 your tools are limited.

For a global sense of entitlement, I personally believe the best way to help our kids is to expose them to ways to truly experience things. So as your kids get older I would look for ways to engage them with poverty (volunteering, travelling); help them learn to work for money, save and budget and spend, and don't provide everything their little hearts desire, particularly as they get closer to adulthood.

But at 5, a lot of that isn't super practical or appropriate, so I think to worry about the car-at-16 scenario is premature. He just won't have that cognitive perspective about others and the world for years. I would deal with what's an issue today, and leave the rest for a while.

Your son also sounds like he may have gone through a lot that has added to his personality for pessimism. Medical trauma can really have that effect on him - it's a nice myth that sick kids all get holy, but a lot of them internalize that there may be another IV around the corner sticking them in the arm. So I think in some ways I would give him some added time to develop a more optimistic view.

For the books and gifts and things, I think that you can address it to a point - and after that he's going to have the emotions he's going to have. I'd just treat it very, very matter-of-factly. "That's what Grandma could spend, and otherwise you wouldn't have anything to spend. Let's enjoy this."

In other words I'd try to give him the consistent message that he CAN and WILL get past these negative feelings - they are ok, but move on. (And behave appropriately.)

With the books, if that's a good place to focus on being present, ALWAYS with 100% consistency agree on the number in advance. Tell him directly that there will be no more, but that you would like him to try to enjoy the ones you are reading. Maybe do a few yoga breaths to focus. And then enjoy them! If he doesn't, he doesn't. He will someday, particularly if there is infectious enthusiasm around him. As he gets older

My son is optimistic in many ways but he's also a 'planner' - he is the kind of kid who is thinking about the next book, sometimes. This is a really positive personality trait in a lot of situations. Just not so much when trying to get more.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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